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SAM GANGWER, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
La Habra starting pitcher Janelle Rodriguez delivers a pitch against Sunny Hills during a Freeway League game Thursday. Rodriguez went the distance, allowing five hits, in the Highlaners' 4-3 victory.

Rodriguez pushes La Habra closer to Freeway title

STAFF WRITER

Just two days after tossing an 11-inning shutout against Fullerton, La Habra pitcher Janelle Rodriguez found herself back in the circle Thursday showing no signs of fatigue.

With first place on the line against league rival Sunny Hills, the sophomore ace used the adrenaline rush to toss her second impressive outing of the week.

Rodriguez struck out eight and scattered five hits in guiding the visiting Highlanders past the Lancers, 4-3, in a Freeway League showdown at Sunny Hills High.

“This was huge because it was basically between us and Sunny Hills (for the league title),” Highlanders coach Melissa Gomez explained. “They played a great game, we played a great game and luckily had a couple thing go our way, and were able to pull it off.”

The Highlanders can wrap up an outright Freeway League championship with wins over Troy and Sonora next week.

Highlighting La Habra’s climb to the top of the league standings was Rodriguez, who finished 2-0 against the Highlanders’ primary league competition, striking out 25 and allowing just eight hits in 18 innings.

“She has a fire underneath her,” Gomez said of Rodriguez. “She’s hungry and she really wants to win right now. There’s nothing stopping her. Even after throwing an 11-inning game on Tuesday, she was determined to throw today.”

The right-hander retired nine of the first 10 batters she faced, recording six strikeouts in the process. La Habra (18-7, 7-1) held a 2-0 lead headed into the bottom half of the fourth inning, where Rodriguez encountered her first bit of trouble.

Lauren Huerta and Shay Knighten both reached base to lead off the fourth, and with one out, Val Romano knocked in Sunny Hills’ first run with an RBI single to left. Amber Elliott gave the Lancers (15-10, 6-2) the lead seconds later with a two-run double to right-center field, making the score 3-2.

Rodriguez led off the ensuing inning with a single to center and later scored on Savannah Tourville’s RBI sac fly to right field. La Habra reclaimed the lead for good later that inning on Alisha Esqueda’s RBI single that scored Amanda Akles.

“Offensively, we have struggled in the past,” Rodriguez said. “But this game showed we can win with our bats because defensively it’s all there.”

Just as she opened the game, Rodriguez retired nine of the last 10 Lancers she faced.

“I was really pumped up because this is our rival,” she added. “You have to feel pumped up. From the bus ride over here, my teammates were giving me that energy.”

In the North Hills League:

Foothill 5, Villa Park 1: Behind Anissa Amarillas’ strong pitching performance and Ari Jarvis’ home run, the Knights clinched the league title by topping the visiting Spartans.

In the Crestview League:

El Modena 7, No. 9 Yorba Linda 6: The Vanguards overcame a four-run deficit in the sixth and seventh innings to beat the Mustangs. The teams are tied atop the league standings headed into the final week of the regular season.

Contact the writer: kconnolly@ocregister.com


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